Soapbox Moment

soapboxI risk hurting some feelings and opening a door for argument, because this is happening here is South Bend and people I know are friends on Facebook with the person doing this. I hold that door open, but will likely not participate.

I sat on this for a day but now feel compelled to share – a warning perhaps.  So, here is where it started:

A friend of mine, a new believer, was invited to an event.  She sent me the invitation and asked what I thought of it.  Here are some tidbits from the invite:

 

FUN….FUN…..FUN CLASS!!!!!

DON’T MISS OUT ON THIS OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT WITH YOUR DIVINE GUARDIAN ANGEL!
THIS CLASS CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
WHO IS YOUR GUARDIAN ANGEL?

Everyone has Guardian Angels who are with you in this lifetime watching over you since you were a small child.

Sometimes Archangels will come in when we most need their strength and guidance during particularly trying times in our lives.

Your Angels want to guide and connect with you, after all, they love and watch over you daily.
When you connect with your Angels, Miracles can and do happen.
Do you want to know what your Angels have to say to you?
IN THIS CLASS I WILL TEACH YOU:

*HOW TO CONNECT WITH YOUR GUARDIAN ANGEL
*RECEIVE A NAME
*ASK YOUR ANGEL FOR HELP WITH STRUGGLES OR ANSWERS YOU ARE SEEKING
*LEARN HOW TO PLAY WITH ANGEL CARDS FOR ANSWERS ON A DAILY BASIS
*LEARN HOW TO RECOGNIZE SIGNS THAT THEY SEND YOU
*LAST BUT NOT LEAST, BE OPEN TO WATCH MIRACLES BEGIN TO HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFE

——————————–

The invite went on to share the dates, times, location and of course the credentials (which included the word “medium”) of the person putting on this 4 week class and doing this seemingly wonderful thing.  They could truly believe that this is their gift.  I don’t want to get snarky here.  I just don’t know if this person realizes that she is being used as a tool by which the enemy is shifting your attention from God to…Angels.  But I say this (this is my side of the argument):

The enemy is subtle.

Why worship something less?  (another created being… )

Do I believe in angels?  Yes.   And…

Reference:  

“Colossians 2:18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.”

“2 Corinthians 2:14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

Just saying… when I need “Help with struggles or answers…”  I am going to pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ.

Now, I will step down, pick up my soapbox, and walk away….

p.s.  My friend said that she declined the invitation

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I Pity the Fool!

A scripture has come to me twice recently.  Once in conversation and once in a devotion.  Some thoughts have come to mind.

“About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. And there was a voice from heaven;”You are my son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness. At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.”

That is Mark 1:9-13

The first recent encounter with this was through a friend who is a new disciple of Christ. (On Saturday she celebrated the anniversary of accepting Christ)  In conversation with another fellow disciple, this person asked or commented something along the lines that it was the Holy Spirit that tempted Jesus.  I found this to be an interesting interpretation and just pointed her back to the scripture and explained what I thought it meant but it was a brief dialogue. I almost dismissed it… I have been busy.  God brought me back around.

The second time, was in my devotion on Monday.  It got me thinking about the big picture presented here.  Jesus was just baptized.  He was beginning His Ministry.  He was fully God and fully human.  Perhaps the reason the Spirit forced him out into the wilderness was to prepare him.  To help the “Fully human” side of him recognize the “Fully God” side.  As humans, we can doubt in our own power and abilities and strength.  On top of that, the scripture specifically mentions that he was among wild animals and that angels took care of him. Often the focus of this scripture is on the temptations of Satan, and I wonder if maybe we should consider the wild animals and the angels.  Jesus had a battle for things not necessarily physical in his temptation by Satan, but he also had these physical threats present. I think it builds a bigger story and a more relatable story. If Jesus was only faced with the temptations and not thisphysical need, would we be able to relate to him? Think about it, we are all tempted all the time.  That is, after all, the primary job of the forces of darkness.  If we think about it as “imagery” we are all in a wilderness at one time or another, some of us daily, and we encounter “wild animals” – I know, they aren’t lions and tigers and bears (Oh My!) unless you live in specific parts of the world but there are day to day representations of wild animals… I bet you just thought of at least one. So while Jesus is focusing all of his attention on these temptations, he has to believe that these physical threats are being addressed. He has to rely on the angels – the provision given to him by God… I pity the animal that tangles with an angel! (insert Mr. T’s voice in that last statement)

My point is…well actually, my question is:  Did the Spirit force him into the wilderness to help Jesus learn that in the face of his own human-ness he had the ability to rely on His power; to show the human Jesus that “You can do it!” and give the human Jesus the fortitude and confidence and ability to empathize and all the stuff that he would need in order to properly minister to all of us humans who are not also “Fully God?”

My friend who is a new disciple, she has said a few times during her journey this past year that she thought she’d spent her time in the wilderness prior to accepting Christ, but things got even harder at times afterward.  The difference being… She accepted Christ and well, she has had more positive than good even in the midst of trials because of her Faith.  I think her wilderness experience is her boot camp.  I think that once she gets through it…she will be a force for God to be reckoned with.

Please, join me in praying for her journey.

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Overflowing a.k.a Maximum Capacity

So, I have noticed some changes in myself as of late, of which I am not proud.  I have dropped a couple balls for which I can’t apologize enough.  Brain fog.  Sarcasm (my old friend/nemesis/crutch) has re-entered my thought pattern, my texting, my language.  Anger lingers.  An underlying sense of “rawness.”  A lack of empathy for perceived “weakness” – but only in certain people…that I won’t get into here, but I fully understand it and have quickly processed.

There may not seem like there is a connection here, but bare with me. Today I found myself watching a press conference a few moments ago that started a flood of tears.  The Metro Homicide Unit had an update on the murder of a two year old that was killed in our community last week. If you are interested you can watch it here: MHU Press Conference

WHY has this triggered all of this? I can probably give you all KINDS of information about the psychology and emotion behind what I am experiencing.  Things that I have LEARNED.

But…I need a minute,

AND I don’t want to take one, not even that ONE MINUTE.

Because I am just too busy to process something that is just for ME.  Yes, this post actually is about me.

Lets start with a bit of background for those of you who don’t know me.  I am blessed with two wonderful vocations.   Working at both a church and a funeral home providing care for other people is perfect for me…except that, it means that I “know” too much.  I know how to help other people process through relational issues, pain, grief… and in that knowing, I am realizing (well  I began to ignore realize it some time ago I think, but now I am publicly acknowledging) that it is stunting or hindering my own process and causing me to rely on less than helpful coping skills exhibit uncharacteristic behaviors.

Having my work and my personal life collide too often is probably not really helpful for me when you consider what those vocations are.

In the past year and four months I have been surrounded with a great deal of loss, or trauma/crisis…not always my own but no more than one degree away from it.  I am an empathetic person and sometimes, empathy hurts.

So, let me paint a picture for you.  Aside from the people that I am honored to assist in my roles at the church and funeral home each day, here is the portrait of pain around me: (Most of it loss of life, but not all of it.)

Let us journey back to January of 2013:

January 2013, I learn that my cousin’s six month old daughter has passed away unexpectedly.  The funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service.

January 2013 – that baby’s grandmother (my father’s sister, my aunt) passes away after a long illness. The funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service.

March 2013  I don’t know how to say this without sounding like I am complaining but Sept – Nov 2012 and then March – June of 2013 I was exhausted from concern…visiting my father, roughly, every other day in a facility or hospital was my 3rd job…but March was the beginning of the end. After years, nay… decades of illness, this marked the final hospitalization of my father who after long treatment and surgery…

June 2013, my father died.  My church and the funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service.

Then there appears to have been a lull…but I don’t remember it.

December 2013 Our lead pastor shares the pain he is feeling, with our staff, over the loss of his nephew who completed suicide.  It is always difficult to watch our pastor during moments like this, but I think this meeting may have been the first time I FELT something after my father died.  I remember my heart hurting for our lead pastor and letting many tears flow…but it wasn’t MY loss.

December 2013, I receive a call from my grieving mother to tell me that HER mother had died.  This is still being processed by my mother on top of my father’s loss and there has been no funeral or memorial service.

December 2013, days before Christmas, I receive an early morning call from a dear friend who had been caring for her terminally ill mother. She shared that her mother had just died.  I was honored to spend that day with and walk with the family through the funeral process.  She was born on the summer solstice and died on the winter solstice.  For some reason that sticks in my brain.  The funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service.

That was my first day of vacation at the time and then I attended the funeral later that week feeling unwell, which turned into pneumonia and

December 31/Jan 1 At 10:30 pm I receive a disturbing text message from the husband of a dear friend followed (finally) two hours later by a phone call from that dear friend who just experienced a horrible revelation from said husband and I am still walking beside her through this.

Did I mention I had pneumonia during this?

Not to mention, the winter of 2013/2014 that seemed to never end, the winter where I learned the term “Polar Vortex” and our great city “shuts down” at least twice.

February 2014 turned out to be an EXCEPTIONALLY busy time at the church…at least for me.  (I know that this is not a relational issue/crisis/loss but I am painting a picture here and consider this just a small element in the background of a larger landscape)

March 2014 I was honored to walk alongside a family in our church as they laid to rest their 10 month old daughter who died unexpectedly.  Our church and the funeral home I am affiliated with coordinated the service.  This service was especially hard for me, and others on our church and funeral home staffs…but again, it was not MY loss.

March 2014 Our church staff lost a great friend whose wife is a also a great friend and fellow staff member, way too soon… He was vibrant and healthy and wonderful and then…he was gone.

April 2014 I learn of a shooting of a two year old (see above press conference) and quickly realize that it is my cousin’s grandson.

April 2014 I learn of a another shooting and soon learn that the young man, 18 years old, riding his bike home from work, was a classmate of my daughter, they were acquainted I guess, not close at all,  but she has been talking about it and it has affected her entire school. The funeral home I am affiliated with is coordinating the service, and I am aware of his presence there and having a child that same age, at the same school…my heart hurts. In a perfect world, I can actually see this in my mind, in two months, he should be walking across the stage of their school receiving his diploma – alphabetically a little before my daughter…my heart hurts and it is again…not MY loss

I am pretty certain that there are many other things that should be included in this list, honestly I find that lull up there between June to December hard to believe but I don’t want to go back through my calendar seeking out pain.

So, I share all of that because I just need to.  Sometimes, proximity to pain CAN affect us.  I need to admit that.  I need to practice what I preach, so to speak.  I am acknowledging that I have reached capacity and I need to, as my good friend Laura just sang to me, “Let it Go!”

I am still going to continue to walk alongside of others in their pain and in their grief but I need to make space inside of myself before I can help others carry their burden.  Now…I am making a phone call because I need someone who doesn’t know me, to help me process my own…stuff.

 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone,without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Galatians 6:1-6

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I Remember the Light

lamp postSeveral years ago, I worked at an answering service. I was just shy of twenty years old and was working to support myself and my then five month old daughter.   Those who knew me then, can testify to the fact that I was pretty far from following Christ at that time, but apparently He loved me enough even then to be present in my pain.  I can only see that now…way on the other side of it but I am grateful to be able to see Him in hindsight.

I enjoyed my job at the answering service and learned quite a bit about customer service.  The answering service was located inside an old house in an equally old neighborhood in the downtown South Bend area.  Parking was in the back and there was an alley that was shared with the businesses on the main street behind us.   I was answering phones for a few hundred companies, in several different service industries such as heating and cooling, garage doors, electricians, plumbers as well as several doctor’s offices and large multi-doctor clinics as well as monitoring for three alarm companies and answering the hotline for a local mental health care organization including their sexual offense victims hotline known as “SOS”.

This job gave me the opportunity to speak to many people in every walk of life:

I spoke to service technicians that were on call every night and the customers who needed them to fix their broken furnace, toilet, or garage door.  Yep, that was me.

I spoke to people who were sick and needed their doctor as well as to panicked parents whose children were somewhere on the spectrum between having the sniffles and dying and I was the one who knew how to reach their doctor.  Yep, that was me.

I spoke to doctors every night.  I had the pleasure of interrupting their dates with their wives, or waking them from a dead sleep, or interrupting them when they were cooking dinner for their family.  Yep, that was me.

I spoke to dispatch for the police and fire departments regularly to alert them of alarms that had been tripped.  Yep, that was me.

I also received calls from the hospitals requesting an advocate for the just admitted victims of rape, molestation, or domestic abuse.  Yep, that was me.

I also received calls from the survivors of those attacks seeking an advocate to talk to because at that moment darkness was descending again and they just needed to hear the voice of someone that cared enough and knew what they were experiencing.  Yep, that was me.

Then one night… I was raped.  I was the person the hospital was calling about.  Yep, that was me.

It was the first warm day that year.  Early April, 1991. Surprisingly, thankfully, I can no longer remember the date.  I dressed appropriately in my favorite denim skirt that zipped from bottom to top in the front, topped with one of my Dad’s gray t-shirts, and finished with my cute white leather sneakers.  It was midnight and still warm outside.  I hopped in my car, the first car I had ever bought on my own, a 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass and it was almost the same gold color of my hair.  I loved that car, even if the carburetor did have issues and caused me to stall out quite often.   I had thrown my purse into the passenger seat and started the engine, rolled down the window and looked in the rearview mirror and noticed a man and a dog walking through the alley about 25 yards behind me.   I turned on the radio and put the car in reverse and the car stalled; I put it park, started it up, gunned the engine a couple times and put it in reverse again and when I looked behind me I noticed the man and dog again and then the car died again.  I put the car in park, started it up, put it in reverse and turned to look out the back window and the car died again.  This time though, when I turned back around to shift back to park there was man at my door and I could hear a dog barking.  I don’t recall what he said but when I went to start the car again he reached his arm in and took the keys out of the ignition.  He yanked open my door and I knew he had no good intentions and so I kicked and fought causing my elbow to hit the horn a few times until he pulled out a knife and said “You’re askin’ to be stabbed.”  I wasn’t, but I got the message.  He shoved me over far enough to get in and close the door.  The dog was still outside but at the passenger side door, and he was scratching at it and I was worried about my paint job!

The car had rolled halfway back to the alley by then but the horn must have alerted the girl who took over for me during the midnight to eight shift and she came to the door.   My headlights were on and you could tell she could not see into the car clearly. She yelled out to see if I was ok and The Man told me to get rid of her.  I remember being worried for her so I yelled something (I don’t recall what) and after a few seconds she went back inside.  (Later she told me that the dog made her think that I was attempting to help a stray…she knew me pretty well)

I remember asking The Man if I could let the dog in the car…he declined.  I remember him starting the car with both the keys and the knife in one hand and then being REALLY MAD that the car did not stall when he put the car in gear.  He had the knife at my throat and drove…aimlessly.  He made me hike up my skirt and remove my underwear.  This is how we drove for about twenty minutes, me half naked with a knife at my throat.  I remember people pulling up next to us on my side at traffic lights and wondering what they could see.  We ended up in the same alley but about a block away.  That is where he raped me…the first time.  We drove and stopped at another location and it continued for about four hours.  The knife was always moving.  Either in his hand or stuck above my head into the door or stuck in the headrest of the seat on the passenger side… always where I could see it and he could reach it.  I looked at him long enough to remember his face, his clothing, and did what I could to gather skin samples under my nails without being obvious… yes, I watched too much TV.  Once I had what was needed I just “left” and hung out with “The Light.” There were times when he needed responses to what he would say (he was really delusional and believed this was a consensual encounter and I tried my best to play along) but other than that I focused on The Light.  Every time he stopped the car and started at me again, regardless of where I was I could see a streetlight above me  and I “left” – I hung out with The Light and it comforted me and kept me calm and somehow I knew that I would be ok.  Being able to remain calm helped to remind me that I had a daughter – which turned out to be very helpful because early on, when he started at me I came REALLY close to “asking him” to kill me but somehow when I looked at The Light I remembered that my daughter needed her mother.  After he was done with me, he drove a block from the answering service, parked the car, gave me a hug and got out.  I moved behind the steering wheel, stunned, and watched him walk to the back of my car and then walk across the street directly behind my car and then I put the car in drive and took off.  In hindsight, I often think I should have thrown the car in reverse and gunned it at that moment but…you know what they say about hindsight. I drove PAST the police station to get home.  It was around 4:30 am and I woke up my parents and told them to call the police.  They arrived and did many things but got me to the hospital and when the nurse mentioned calling “SOS” I panicked.  I told them that when they called, to warn the girl who answered the phone, to give her my name (usually they only state the age and gender of the victim) and to tell her to be careful and many other things.  When the “SOS” advocates arrived, I was grateful they were there – but not for me, I wanted them to be with my parents.  My parents were a mess.  Quite frankly, I was good.  I WAS FREAKING ALIVE!  My parents were devastated, but I WAS ALIVE!  I was good.  “Tell me what you need me to do to catch this guy”  was all I was thinking about about…and a shower, a blistering hot shower.  Turns out the evidence we needed to identify him conclusively was present and all we had to do was find him…which turned out to be pretty easy for the cops.  The hard part was the two years it took to get him convicted and I will save you all those details and drama.  He was sentenced to two twenty year sentences.  He ended up only serving about nine years.  He is out, I know where he lives.  He does not know it, but I have forgiven him.

The only real lingering affect is I am extra cautious about being outside, alone in the dark…  like starting my car in the morning during the winter or walking to my car alone in a parking lot at night.  I am cautious and alert…but not afraid.

Some might think that, somewhere in my head there should be a 4 hour long nightmare of a memory of that night, but there isn’t.  I remember a lot about the moments leading to it and all of the moments after it.  When I think back to that night I recall about 25% of the assault and beyond that I remember The Light.  God has graced me with that.  I remember The Light.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Yep, that’s me.

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Receiving a hug through a bag of trash

As followers of Christ we are to offer forgiveness regardless of there being an apology expressed for an offense.

Unfortunately, some “offenders” look at this and dismiss the idea of offering an apology and assume forgiveness has been given and that the relationship has been restored to its previous state.  This is unfortunate because if you ask anyone who has been wronged, it is challenging to offer affection and return the relationship to normal without that apology.

Quite like receiving a hug through a bag of trash. 

You want the connection, but there is this mess between you that you should probably clean up.  The question I hear often is along the lines of “who is responsible for” cleaning up the trash?

My original thought was “the offender of course” and typically, if they know they have made the offense I would say that is true; but then when I look at things a bit longer I realize that it may very well be that sometimes the “victim” may have some responsibility to clean up the mess.  It boils down to this:  the responsibility to restore the relationship falls on the person who WANTS to restore the relationship and to create the space where this can happen.  Sometimes, our offenders do not realize they have dumped their trash in our lap and they then feel offended when the relationship appears to have changed “for no reason.”

It is all a matter of boundaries.   (I recommend the book if you don’t understand what that means)

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”   – Matthew 18:15

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Thyme of Grace

Just had lunch with my lovely daughter Breanna and we are on a mission to check out a different place each week.  This week we chose Thyme of Grace on Mishawaka Avenue in South Bend.

I have been longing to try this place but they are only open during the lunch hours on Monday through Friday.  If you are in the mood for an “unusual, eclectic dining experience” this is beyond worthwhile.

The menu was unique and we were greeted at the door by the chef, Michelle Lankford who then explained the day’s specials.  Breanna and I both latched onto the idea of a roasted red pepper soup (she went with a bowl, I opted for the cup) and then she went salad and I went sandwich; grilled cheese that is.  (The use of the semicolon in thie previous sentence is dedicated to my friend Lori Lohmeyer.  SAVE THE SEMICOLON!)

My cup of soup:

My “prince albert” sandwich:

Breanna’s salad (I forget which one):

She was SOOO excited when she found this little guy hiding among the beautiful garden she was about to enjoy:

We truly enjoyed this little place.  The decor is cute eclectic.  A place to hang out with your girlfriends for certain!  The food was DELISH! The price was nice.  Especially when they lived up to the GRACE in their name.  When Nichole brought our check, upon seeing my debit card she explained that they take cash, check and dishwashers.  I had no cash, nor a check, or time to wash a dish.  To which she responded that it was not a problem, to take the check and tear off the bottom portion, write down my contact information and mail it in to them.  OH. MY. WORD!  Who does that anymore?!?!   It was amazing.  Ladies – expect a big tip when you receive my check!

Oh, and if you want to check out Thyme of Grace…they are catering the Garden Party at the Potawatomi Conservatories on Friday, May 18th 6 – 9 pm.  This is a free event, make some “Thyme” to be there!

(Yes, I really did just do that. Yes, I know I am hokey)

Friends, this place receives two thumbs WAY up from Breanna and I.

Awesome food, great experience.

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A prayer for the saints

Saints: Those dedicated to God and set apart for his service. All who believe in Jesus, regardless of their character or spiritual maturity.

Ephesians 1:15-23

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And god placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

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